Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pathetic: British children's charity cuts all alcohol references from Drunken Sailor nursery rhyme

First sung in the days when Britannia ruled the waves, it became a favourite in schools and nurseries, handed down through the decades. But the old sea shanty What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? may finally be sunk by a broadside from the good ship Political Correctness. The government-funded charity Bookstart, which promotes reading for children around the country, has changed the lyrics to remove any reference to alcohol. It means the 'drunken sailor' has been transformed into the rather tame 'grumpy pirate'. 'Put him in the brig until he's sober' has been replaced by the insipid 'Do a little jig and make him smile', while 'Round with the rum and scotch and whiskey' has become 'Tickle him till he starts to giggle'.

The cleaned-up rhyme was made into a songsheet sent to libraries across the UK to encourage children to read. But parents and education experts insisted that children could be trusted with the original version. Nick Seaton, of pressure group the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'Changing the words of a much-loved children's nursery rhyme is simply trying to re-write the history and tradition of this country. 'Organisations such as Bookstart should know better and not start to tinker with traditional songs which were written many years ago. 'Once you start doing that you are asking for trouble. If they want to sing a song about pirates, why don't they simply write a new one?'

Bookstart is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Work and Pensions to help parents share books with their children from as early an age as possible. Mother Caroline Graham, 29, attended one of their sessions with her son Jacob, two, at her local library in Rainham in Kent. She said: 'I don't know why they bother. It is clearly meant to be politically correct but surely children that young can't be offended by a harmless nursery rhyme. 'It makes me angry that during the current economic climate people are being paid probably more than my husband earns to come up with stuff like this. It's pathetic really.'

Karen Sanders, 34, also went to a session with her girl Clara, one. She said: 'It's a song I sang when I was growing up and I don't think it did me any harm. It seems silly to change the lyrics because they are quite funny - everyone laughs at the image of a drunken sailor.' Former Ofsted inspector and grandmother Margaret Morrissey said: 'This is just nonsense. 'Children are great levellers and no matter how politically correct the Government and their quangos become, they will still sing the original nursery rhymes because they are funny.'

The song was sung by sailors on the Royal Navy's ships of the line in the 19th century. It was often sung when raising a sail or lifting the anchor - hence 'Up She Rises' in the song's chorus - or when sailing into battle. The lyrics tell of how the ship's crew might deal with one of their shipmates after a belly full of rum stops him from helping with his deck duties.

Katherine Soloman, spokesman for Bookstart, admitted she could see how some would think the change was politically correct. But she said the change was to fit in with a 'pirate theme' it was promoting. She said: 'We are keen on all the old favourites and we believe we do a good job in getting young children reading and enjoying books.' Bookstart, established in 1992, is an initiative run by independent arts charity Booktrust. As well as government funding, children's book publishers and booksellers support it with sponsorship.


`A nasty little piece of smug class warfare'

A "Green" holiday firm's promise of `chav-free holidays' for the middle classes exposes the snobbery that underpins radical eco-tourism.

Activities Abroad, a green-leaning travel firm based in Northumberland, England, has caused a stink by guaranteeing its clients `chav-free holidays'. For the benefit of non-British readers, `chav' is a derogatory term for working-class British youth, the tracksuit-wearing, blinged-up, lager-swilling kind, who are said to populate areas such as Croydon, Bermondsey and Birmingham, but who are most frequently found hanging around in the minds of panicked middle-class, Middle England hacks. In a promo email sent to 24,000 subscribers at the end of last week, Activities Abroad (AA) promised that no such despicable, slovenly people will ever be found on one of its trips overseas.

Under the heading `Chav-Free Activity Holidays', AA said: `...Children with middle-class names such as Duncan and Catherine are eight times more likely to pass their GCSEs than children with names such as Wayne and Dwayne. This got us thinking. Are there names you are likely to encounter and not encounter on an Activities Abroad holiday?' (1) It did some quickfire research and discovered that on an AA trip you are unlikely to encounter people called `Britney, Kylie-Lianne, Dazza, Chardonnay, Chantelle and Candice' (in short, thugs and slags), and are far more likely to run in to people called `Sarah, Alice, Lucy, Charlotte, James and Joseph' (in short, middle class and mild).

Eleven of AA's email subscribers complained; one denounced the mailshot as `a nasty little piece of smug class warfare' and promised never to patronise AA again (2). The Guardian seemed especially miffed by the embarrassing mailout, conscious, perhaps, that AA is the kind of trendy, liberal, eco-aware holiday firm that it normally advertises in its pages. AA's holidays include husky safaris in the Canadian wilderness and volcano hiking in Costa Rica, which can set travellers back 2,000 pounds, and last year it won a silver award for `most environmentally responsible small tour operator' at the British Travel Awards (3). Yet its managing director, Alistair McLean, was unapologetic about the email, telling one complaining customer: `I make no apology for proclaiming myself to be middle class and a genuine contributor to our society.' (4) Unlike those Waynes, Dwaynes, Chantelles and Candices, who of course contribute nothing.

AA's anti-chav advertising tactics are disturbing, and more than a little dumb, but are they really so shocking? Poisonous snobbery towards `chavvy' and working-class holidaymakers is rife today - only it tends to be expressed in code, in underhand concerns about CO2 emissions, trails of noxious gases in the blue sky, the dangers of cheap flights, and the denigration of foreign cultures by unthinking Brits. AA's mistake was to forget the coded lingo and state out loud the prejudices that underpin new forms of oh-so-superior eco-travel. Perhaps it has done us a crude service, then, by revealing for all to see the naked loathing of the young and horizon-exploring working classes that motivates much of the contemporary debate on tourism.

Much of what AA's Alistair McLean said in response to the 11 complaints about his email went entirely unreported in the Guardian's article, or anywhere else in the British press. This scion of Green travel - hailed by ethical columnists, decorated by the British Travel Awards, and a member of the Responsible Travel coalition (`holidays that give the world a break') - let rip against the Great Unwashed in one online discussion forum. To one complainant, he spat: `Do you encourage your children to go off and play with the shell-suited [a shell-suit is trackpants with a matching top], Lambert and Butler sucking teenagers who hang around our shopping centres at night?' He laid into the `shell-suited urchins who haunt our street corners'. And he pointed out that where his travel firm makes `a positive contribution to our economy' - by paying `corporation tax, income tax, PAYE. and [making contributions] to AIDS projects in South Africa and other charitable organisations' - he is tired of watching economic resources being `frittered away by people who simply can't be bothered ("bovvered")' (5).

It's nasty stuff, fuelled by hysterical images of feral working-class kids running riot and old-style prejudices about the poor sponging off decent society. Yet the idea that lower-income communities - these `urchins', these cigarette-sucking teenagers - are destructive, especially when they go on holiday, is widespread. In recent years, `cheap flights' has become a thinly-disguised codeword for `cheap people', for those Dwaynes and Waynes who apparently only go overseas in order to drink, puke and fornicate. Eco-activists and commentators try their best to present their opposition to cheap flights as being driven by concern for the environment or even, laughably, as a radical anti-capitalist stance against `the toffs' who allegedly populate Ryanair's 5 pound flights to Riga. Yet their mask of eco-respectability frequently slips to reveal a sneering snobbery underneath.

Caroline Lucas, leader of the UK Green Party, has written of the `stratospheric cost of cheap flights' and demanded `an end to cheap stag nights in Riga' (6). She fails to explain why a flight for a stag night in the Latvian capital is more destructive than, say, a flight to one of AA's husky safaris in the Canadian wilderness. Plane Stupid poses as an edgy campaign group that wants to ground the cheap flights of `second home owners'. Yet in their more unguarded moments, its members spout bile about one kind of travel only. Its founder says: `Our ability to live on Earth is at stake, and for what? So people can have a stag do in Prague.' (7) In another statement, Plane Stupid said: `There's been an enormous growth in binge-flying with the proliferation of stag and hen nights to Eastern European destinations chosen not for their architecture or culture but because people can fly there for 99p and get loaded for a tenner.' (8) That's not edgy - it's the age-old middle-class prejudice against pointless, wasteful working-class tourism dressed up in a little bit of environmental garb.

Whether they're dissing `cheap flights' (the correct code), `stag night attendees' (the code starts to slip), or vile `shell-suited urchins' called `Dwayne and Wayne' (the code completely falls apart), the target of the eco-aware is always the kind of hedonistic travel indulged by youthful members of lower-income communities. Beneath their environmental concerns there lurks the long-standing prejudice that some forms of travel, involving huskies and volcanos, are worthwhile, and other forms, involving kicking back, relaxing, having unadulterated fun, are low, coarse, destructive and literally `noxious'.

Tourism and travel have long been the targets of vicious snootiness. When in the Victorian era British workers first started venturing to the seaside, thanks to one Thomas Cook, snobbish commentators complained that `of all noxious animals, the most noxious is a tourist' (9). Later, in the modern era of the 1920s and 30s, the middle classes who had long been travelling to places like Italy and Greece were alarmed to see the lower middle-classes, and even Americans, following in their wake. The British literary snob Osbert Sitwell described American tourists as a `swarm of very noisy transatlantic locusts'. His sister, the poet Edith, said tourists were `the most awful people with legs like flies, who come in to lunch in bathing costumes - flies, centipedes' (10). In more recent times, from the 1980s onwards, commentators have attacked `the vile behaviour of British tourists' in places like southern Spain, the `disgusting inebriation, oral sex and other beachside practices [that would] startle a Blackpool donkey' (11). The image of the `Blackpool donkey' is telling: the sentiment is that `these people', these destructive urchins, should really stay put in places like Blackpool rather than fouling the sophisticated world with their filthy habits as they get `loaded for a tenner'.

Paul Fussell argued in his 1982 book Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars that: `From the outset, mass tourism attracted the class-contempt of killjoys who conceived themselves. superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and spirit.' The language changes over the years - from `animals' to `locusts', `centipedes' to `yobs' and `drunks' - but the sentiment remains remarkably similar: these people are noxious, whether metaphorically, as described by that Victorian observer, or literally, in the way that they are now described by today's snobs as being `harmful to the environment'. AA's fantastically crude reduction of entire sections of the population to `chavs', `urchins', cigarette-suckers, all instantly recognisable by their ridiculous first names, reveals the deep snobbery that still underpins the tourism debate. Because it is about betterment and exploration, about escaping the local and dipping a foot into the global, about having ideas way, way above one's station, travel invites the undiluted snobbery of those who consider themselves `superior by reason of intellect' like no other single issue.

We should challenge the fake distinction made between `enlightening travel' and `filthy travel', and insist that travel is in itself a positive thing. Whether people go abroad to hang out with huskies or to chat up girls, to donkey-trek in Peru or to sunbathe in Magaluf, it's all about escaping, exploring and experiencing, and urchins who smoke and sponge off society (allegedly) should be as free to do that as the kids named Lucy, Charlotte and Alice.


No Platform for anyone called Rothschild

I know how Douglas Murray feels after being disinvited from a university debate. I was once rejected due to my surname

By Nathalie Rothschild

Organisers of a London School of Economics (LSE) debate titled `Islam or Liberalism: Which is the Way Forward?' came up with a Third Way this week: pre-emptive censorship. Douglas Murray, a self-described neoconservative and critic of Islam, was disinvited from chairing the debate between Dr Alan Sked, senior lecturer in international history at the LSE, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a Muslim writer and lecturer, on the basis that his presence might rile some students. I know how he must feel. I was once turned down from a university debate on the basis that my surname - Rothschild - might upset sensitive attendees.

The decision to bar Murray from the debate, which went ahead without him on Monday, was not based on anything he had said or done. The Telegraph reported Dr Sked saying that Murray had `never said anything objectionable' in previous appearances at the LSE (1). Instead, the LSE asked Murray not to attend `in the interest of public safety' (2). According to Dr Sked, `radical students' have recently caused trouble, including by occupying LSE buildings (3). A one-week protest over Israel's war in Gaza had just taken place at the LSE when Murray received notice that it was no longer appropriate for him to chair Monday's event.

The purpose of the LSE debate was to evaluate `how far Islam and liberalism are compatible' (4). Perhaps the organisers should do a follow-up discussion on how far the LSE and liberal values are compatible. Free and open debate ought to be the mainstay of any university worth its name, yet the managers of this prestigious institution don't seem to have the guts to uphold freedom of speech.

Two years ago, I spoke on a panel debate with Murray at the Battle of Ideas, looking at what lay behind `the veil row' - that short-lived but incendiary controversy sparked by former foreign secretary Jack Straw's description of the niqab as a `visible demonstration of separateness'. I didn't find Murray's warnings about the `Islamification of the West' convincing, and neither did most of the audience, which included representatives of the radical Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. However, there was no global jihad at this heated debate; radical young Muslims simply challenged Murray from the floor, and he challenged them back. The idea that people will go berserk upon hearing controversial arguments - a fear that apparently haunts the imagination of LSE professors - is unfounded.

It is not just professors who feel the need to tiptoe around students' supposed sensibilities. Shortly before that Battle of Ideas debate - in October 2006 - I had been recommended as a speaker for a panel debate at Greenwich University titled `Does the Veil Stop "Community Cohesion?"'. The event was organised by a Further Education Black Students Officer at the National Union of Students (NUS). Yet when this elected NUS representative, whose primary job was to deal with issues affecting ethnic minorities in Britain's colleges, found out that my surname is Rothschild, he decided I was persona non grata. Apparently, it is not appropriate for a person with a Jewish name to sit on a panel discussing Muslim issues.

The organiser's excuse for not inviting me to speak was that he feared the debate would turn into a discussion about Israel/Palestine on the basis of my name, instantly recognisable as Jewish. Yet when I saw the full outline of the event, it was clear that there was no reason why the debate would `descend into a row' about the Middle East. The debate aimed to address four questions: `Is the veil stopping community cohesion and why will the Muslim community not integrate? Are the Muslim community intolerant of whether people find the veil uncomfortable? Does the war on terror have anything to do with this? What are Muslims doing to alleviate any fears of the wider non-Muslim community?' These are all issues I have written on or spoken about, yet the organisers decided not to accept me as a recommended speaker because of the R-word: Rothschild.

Then, three days before the debate was scheduled to take place, they became desperate to find a final speaker. So desperate that they seemed to overcome their qualms about having someone with a recognisable Jewish name on the panel. They emailed asking me to take part, demanding `please get back to us ASAP!'. This time, I declined.

The whole saga was pretty insulting. But it wasn't proof of some endemic anti-Semitism; it simply showed up the prejudice and cowardice of one individual. I quite easily brushed the incident aside. After all, with a name like Rothschild, I have been mistaken for everything from a global international conspirator and an `ally of genocidal communism' to a multibillionaire playboy who hangs out with Russian oligarchs and Tories (also named `Nat Rothschild'). So what if some ignoramus deduced from my family name that I could not address a student union debate on Muslim veils without promulgating some `Jewish interest'? That was his problem.

However, both my experience and that of Douglas Murray point to the rise and rise of new forms of pre-emptive censorship - the curtailing of debate `just in case'. Both the NUS officer who declined me as a speaker and the professors at the LSE who disinvited Murray insulted their prospective audiences, presuming that they would be offended or incited by the presence of a Jew, in my case, or a neocon critic of Islam, in Murray's case.

Students, professors, politicians and commentators increasingly feel the need to tiptoe around people's perceived sensitivities, particularly in relation to the Middle East. Fearing complaints and controversy, they end up practising pre-emptive censorship in the name of `public safety' or `avoiding offence'. This was also the case when Random House publishers pulled Sherry Jones' novel, The Jewel of Medina, a Mills-and-Boon style story about the prophet Mohammed's relationship with his 14-year-old wife Aisha. Random House said the book `might be offensive to some in the Muslim community' and it could `incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment' (5). Again, the `just in case' principle rules: withhold a novel from publication `just in case' it incites anger.

Others argue that radical Muslims should be banned in case they offend Christians or stir young Muslims to become suicide bombers. Indeed, some of the right-wing conservative commentators who were up in arms about the LSE retracting its invitation to Douglas Murray, all self-proclaimed defenders of Enlightenment values, often call for censorship, too. For example, Daily Mail columnist Melanie Philips has demanded the banning of Muslim groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir (6). Sean Gabb, director of the Libertarian Alliance, called for the resignation of the LSE professor who took the final decision to disinvite Murray. Gabb was right to say that universities have a commitment to free speech and that the professor undermined this by disinviting Murray (7). However, his reaction also points to a censorious impulse simply to get rid of those who offend certain ideals rather than to challenge them.

As it happens, the NUS, through its censorious `No Platform' policy, has managed to ban Hiz-but-Tahrir on many British campuses. Sensitivity censorship is rife in British universities: leftists try to ban fascists, right-wing groups oppose radical Muslims, and Muslims try to stop Jews from speaking. When I was a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, a handful of students formed a Jewish society, yet the Islamic Society complained that the student union had allowed a `Zionist organisation' to set up on campus. Recently, students in Oxford demanded the cancellation of a speech by Israeli president Shimon Peres. Elsewhere, students have campaigned to censor anti-immigrant professors, the youth wing of the British Nationalist Party, Christian Unions, the Daily Mail, and Eminem songs. One university recently banned political groups from participating in freshers' week - the first week of the academic year when students normally get the chance to mingle and sign up to societies.

Rather than feeding into this bizarre game of `No Platform' one-upmanship, professors, students, publishers and others should stand up for freedom expression for all - and that includes Muslim extremists, neocons, and people with famous surnames.


Millions of British adults lack the basic skills in English and maths to get by

Millions of people are illiterate and struggle with the basic maths needed to get by in life despite billions of pounds being spent on the problem, an influential committee of MPs said. Even though GCSE achievement is rising, many teenagers are still leaving school without any qualifications in English and maths, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the committee, said that Britain faced dire consequences if the issue was not tackled. “This is a dismal picture, both for the many who face diminished prospects in what they can achieve in life and for the competitiveness of our country in the world economy,” he said. Even if the Government met its targets, he said, Britain would still compare badly with other developed countries. The most up-to-date research, from 2003, estimated that more than five million people lacked functional literacy and nearly seven million were innumerate. This is the equivalent of leaving school without a D to G grade GCSE in English or maths and being unable to read labels or count the change given when making a purchase.

The report said that, despite the Government spending 5 billion between 2001 and 2007 on trying to improve levels of literacy and numeracy, England still had an unacceptably high number of people who could not read, write or count. It said: “The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has helped no more than one in ten of those with numeracy skills below the level of a good GCSE. “Lack of up-to-date information on the skills of the population means that the department cannot be sure that its programmes are equipping people with the skills that the UK economy needs to remain competitive.”

The report found that more than 50,000 pupils left school in 2007 without achieving a grade D to G in maths and 39,000 failed to achieve this basic grade in English. It said that remedial action would be needed later in life to correct the deficiencies in skills. The authors of the report recommended adopting new approaches to recruiting maths teachers, such as targeting specific graduates and making it easier to train in different ways, including through distance learning.

The report also said that more effort should be made to help illiterate prisoners. “Only one in five offenders with very low levels of basic skills had enrolled on a course that would help them,” it said. “This represents a major lost opportunity.”



Lord Turner of Ecchinswell is to investigate the collapse of funding for renewable energy projects in Britain after the recent exit of a string of companies, including BP and Shell.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and of the Government's Committee on Climate Change, said that the study was a response to mounting scepticism over the Government's plans for a huge expansion of wind and tidal power.

He said he was concerned that a number of key projects had been thrown into jeopardy, including London Array, a œ3 billion scheme to build the world's largest offshore wind park in the Thames Estuary. "We have to make sure that the present climate does not set back our plans," he said.

Doubts have surfaced over the Government's commitment to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34 per cent by 2020 as falling oil prices and the global credit crisis have triggered a funding crisis. Last week E.ON, the German utility group, and Masdar, a fund controlled by Abu Dhabi, said that they were reconsidering the viability of the London Array.

More here

Britain opens door to 36,000 Gurkha veterans after policy U-turn

The heroic Gurkhas are much loved in Britain so this will be greeted with widespread jubilation as being justice done

Thousands more Gurkha soldiers and their families will be given the right to settle in Britain under a new policy to be announced by the Home Office. New settlement rights due to be announced could open the door to 36,000 Gurkhas who served in the British Army before 1997. Nepal is understood to be concerned that the loss of so many citizens and their army pensions could leave a huge hole in its economy.

The Home Office was forced to take action after a ruling from High Court judges in October that the Government needed to review its policy on whether Gurkhas who had served before 1997 could live in Britain.

Officials say that the forthcoming decision has such far-reaching consequences that concerns have been raised about the continuing recruitment of Gurkhas from Nepal. Defence officials have warned the Home Office that if the right to live in Britain were extended to every Gurkha who has served in the British Army Nepal might scrap the 1947 agreement under which its young men have been recruited each year. Since the tripartite agreement was signed with Nepal and India, the Nepalese economy has relied on income coming into the country from Gurkhas serving with the British Army.

The Home Office has come up with certain criteria for settlement that will keep the numbers down without flouting the judgment of the High Court. One Whitehall source said: “We can still meet what the judges want while keeping the criteria as tight as possible. We have no idea at this stage how many will want to come to live in the UK and how many members of their family they will bring with them.”

The MoD denied a report last week that it wanted to scrap the Brigade of Gurkhas because of the potential multimillion-pound cost of paying out bigger pensions to the Nepalese veterans if granted settlement rights. “We don’t want to scrap the brigade. Five hundred Gurkhas are serving in Afghanistan at the moment,” a defence source said. Gurkhas are needed, not just for their professionalism, but to boost numbers in an Army that is nearly 4,000 soldiers short. The Gurkha veterans who will be covered by the new policy are those who served in Hong Kong before the handover to the Chinese in 1997. After that date new Gurkha recruits from Nepal were based in Britain.

The MoD’s argument in the High Court case was that Gurkhas serving in the former British colony up to 1997 had no expectation of living in Britain and returned home to Nepal after completing their term of service. Only Gurkhas with strong links to Britain could be considered for residency. The judges accepted that 1997 was a reasonable cut-off date but insisted that the decision to deny Gurkhas who had served before 1997 the automatic right to live in Britain was discriminatory and illegal. They said that the Nepalese soldiers had displayed the same courage and commitment to Britain as those who had served after 1997.

Gurkhas have fought alongside British soldiers for nearly 200 years — 200,000 fought in the world wars and 45,000 have died in action.

The judges ordered a review of policy that was due to have been completed and announced two days ago, but the Home Office won a brief extension to the three-month deadline set by the judges. The MoD’s greatest concern with the decision is the impact that it will have on the Nepalese Government and the future of the Gurkha-recruitment programme. About 30,000 Nepalese families depend on the salaries and pensions of the British Gurkhas.

The average annual wage in Nepal is 235 pounds, and the 230 Nepalese recruited into the 3,500-strong Brigade of Gurkhas each year (28,000 applied last year) transform what would otherwise be an impoverished existence. After an increase, announced last year, a Gurkha rifleman with 15 years’ service receives a pension in Nepal of about 131 pounds a month. If they came to live in Britain, they would expect to receive the same pension awarded to other members of the Armed Forces — and to the post-1997 Gurkhas already living here. An official said: “They wouldn’t get a higher pension as of right. There will have to be further court cases to resolve this issue but if their pensions are increased, the money will have to be found out of the MoD budget.”


Friday, January 30, 2009

Plan for a green NHS is crazy and dangerous. Britain just need a health service that works

Seemingly oblivious to events in the real world, Whitehall's green crusaders have found themselves another target: the beleaguered NHS. Now, you may have been under the illusion the health service had enough to worry about, saving lives, delivering babies and generally tending to the sick. Wrong! It is responsible for 18million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, 3.2 per cent of the total for the whole of Britain. Something must be done! Thus the NHS has dreamt up a strategy, complete with barmy and in some cases apparently dangerous ideas, which will reduce its 2007 emissions by 10 per cent by 2015 and - God help us - 80 per cent by 2050.

So, the next time you are feeling unwell and want to make an appointment with your GP, expect to be asked if you wouldn't settle for some 'telemedicine' instead. Or, sparing the jargon, how about telling your doctor what is wrong over the phone, rather than a face-to-face appointment with stethoscopes and the like, in order to avoid getting in your car, and chugging out carbon dioxide as you cough and splutter over the steering wheel? Sure, you risk misdiagnosis - but think about the good you'll be doing the environment. Feel better already? Thought so.

And what about cutting out the red meat, should you ever be unlucky enough to find yourself hospitalised? Yes, you might be at a low ebb, and in need of a decent meal. But it is very energy intensive to produce a steak, so how about settling for some vegetables? Removing meat from the hospital menu will do the planet good, if not you.

On the nonsense goes. I'm prepared to give them the idea of using tap water instead of bottled. I fell for the fad of lugging dozens of bottles of the stuff home from the supermarket a few years ago and, like most people, have since got over it. But the majority of the green strategy is preposterous, nannying and not without risk. As Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: 'I believe this is fraught with danger, and many GPs see it as a dangerous practice. 'There are cases of patients having died after being misdiagnosed over the phone.'

Speaking to your GP over the phone can be reassuring in non-urgent cases - but how can a GP know if it's urgent or not without seeing them?

Even if you accept that Britain must reduce its carbon emissions, in order to lessen the impact of climate change, the NHS is entirely the wrong target. (I'd suggest axing the bureaucrats responsible for thinking up such initiatives. Think of the petrol and light bulbs you could save).

Yes, people have a duty to think about the world we'll bequeath to future generations. But not when they're sick. Nor should those faced with the difficult task of treating the ill, or helping the terminally-ill to die with dignity, have to give a second thought to their carbon footprint. Rather, they should be allowed to concentrate on addressing the failings which - despite the sterling efforts of those on the frontline - remain all too abundantly clear.

Let's take a look at some revelations from the NHS over the past three weeks alone. Two out of three hospitals still have mixed-sex wards, 12 years after Labour promised to get rid of them. Seventy per cent of trusts say men and women are not properly segregated on their wards, where they are often separated by nothing more than a curtain or a flimsy partition. Just 15 per cent of hospitals ensure all patients have fully separate wards and bathroom facilities. Isn't this a little more important than worrying about lightbulbs?

The number of patients killed by hospital blunders has soared by 60 per cent in only two years. Official records show that 3,645 died as a result of outbreaks of infections, botched operations and other mistakes in 2007/08. That was up from 2,275 two years before. Shouldn't the NHS be devoting its time to reducing this figure, rather than keeping beef pie off the hospital menu?

Midwives are more overworked than they have been for at least a decade, and are delivering far more babies per year than stipulated by safety guidelines - putting mothers and babies at risk. Experts believe up to 1,000 babies a year die needlessly because doctors and midwives are too overstretched or poorly-trained to detect warning signs. Do these same poor midwives really need some bureaucrats encouraging them to cycle to work, in order to reduce their carbon footprint?

A Green NHS? The public just wants one that works.


Active sex life supposedly 'cuts prostate cancer risk' - once you're over fifty

This is all self-report and self-report is maximally unreliable in sexual matters. It is probably more a study of attributions than of behaviour

Having an active sex life in their 50s could protect men against prostate cancer, say researchers. But greater levels of sexual activity among men in their 20s could increase their chances of developing the disease in later life, they warn. Men who are `very' sexually active in their 20s and 30s are more at risk, a study shows. Researchers at Nottingham University conclude that keeping up a regular sex life - rather than excessive activity in younger years followed by a fallow period - is best for men's health.

Dr Polyxeni Dimitropoulou, now at the University of Cambridge, said: `We were keen to look at the links between sexual activity and younger men as a lot of prostate cancer studies focus on older men as the disease is more prevalent in men over 50. Hormones appear to play a key role in prostate cancer and it is very common to treat men with therapy to reduce the hormones thought to stimulate the cancer cells. `A man's sex drive is also regulated by his hormone levels, so this study examined the theory that having a high sex drive affects the risk of prostate cancer.'

Each year 30,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in Britain. The disease remains the second most common cause of death for men in the UK, killing 10,000 a year. The study looked at the sexual practices of more than 431 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in their 50s, compared with 409 cancer- free men.

Engaging in sexual activity more than 20 times a month between the 20s and 30s increased the risk of prostate cancer, says a report in this month's issue of the British Journal of Urology International. But frequent activity in a man's 40s and later appeared to have little impact on their risk. Men in their 50s who were most sexually active, engaging in sexual activity more than ten times a month, had a `small' level of protection against the disease.

Dr Dimitripolou said: `One theory is that during the early years the prostate gland is more susceptible to hormonal changes and is still developing. `As men age and accumulate toxins from the diet or through their lungs, sexual activity may help release them.'


Britain is too soft on Calais immigrants, says France

France yesterday called on Britain to toughen up its act against the tide of illegal migrants crossing the Channel. During a crisis visit to Calais, France's hardline new immigration minister Eric Besson criticised his London counterparts. He claimed that lax security in the Channel Tunnel and at ferry ports was encouraging thousands to try to enter Britain illegally, causing huge problems for the French.

In an upcoming meeting with British immigration minister Phil Woolas, Mr Besson will make it clear that there will be no new version of the Red Cross refugee centre at Sangatte, near Calais. He said a permanent hostel would only serve as a springboard for the migrants already in the northern French port - and as a magnet for thousands more to arrive. He hoped to silence repeated calls by aid agencies for a new shelter for migrants to be set up in Calais.

The original Sangatte hostel was blamed for becoming a stepping stone to Britain for more than 50,000 refugees over five years. It was finally bulldozed in 2002 in a joint agreement between Britain and France. Since then, refugee charities have provided food and clothing to bedraggled immigrants in Calais, but not given them overnight shelter.

Hundreds now live in filthy conditions in a woodland shanty town near the ferry port called the 'jungle'. The appalling conditions and fighting over food have triggered frequent clashes between rival immigrant gangs and police. A London journalist was raped by an Afghan refugee last year after visiting the camp to write a news article.

Mr Besson was in Calais today to explore ways to help solve the immigration crisis which has plagued the northern French coast for a decade. He said: "I don't pretend to have all the answer today but I am visiting Calais in the hope of finding them. "I hope to have made final decisions on what to do about Calais by May 1." He added: "But I will say now that it is out of the question to reopen a new hostel for immigrants in Calais. "This would only help the immigrants that are there already to remain there or cross illegally to Britain. "And it would become a powerful incentive for more immigrants to come there. "It would also not be a solution to the humanitarian problem. It would be an extra humanitarian problem. "I will meet with British officials in the coming days and I intend to make the ferries and channel tunnel watertight to illegal immigrants. "Our British partners must commit themselves more actively in the reinforcement of checks and security at Calais, in their own interests and ours."

Mr Besson also said earlier this week that he is set to bring in legislation that would allow DNA testing of new immigrants arriving in France. The tests would establish which foreigners were genuine refugees and which were claiming visas by making up fictious family ties with those already in France. The DNA scans will be for applications for visas of more than three months when there are doubts about an immigrant's birth or marriage certificates.

Civil liberties groups reacted furiously to the scheme, which was approved by the French parliament 15 months ago but does not come into effect until Mr Besson has signed the legislation - a move which until now has been delayed by protests. But Mr Besson has now said he wanted to enact the proposals, adding: "If the decree is accepted, I will scrupulously respect all individual liberties. It's not my obsession."

But immigrant welfare activist Daniele Lochak, former president of GISTI immigrants support group, said: "It's obvious that applicants who refuse DNA tests will have every chance of having their visas refused." The cost of up to 350 pounds per test would also to be beyond the reach of many immigrant families, he said.

France civil law also says that taking and examining a person's DNA can only be for medical or scientific research, meaning magistrates will have to authorise the new immigrant tests. Outgoing immigration minister Brice Hortefeux recently announced that France deported 30,000 illegal migrants in 2008 - a record number. It was a rise of more than 25 per cent on the number expelled the previous year.


The British schools where NO-ONE speaks English as a first language

There are now ten schools in England without a single pupil who speaks English as his or her first language. Research reveals that there are almost 600 primary schools where 70 per cent or more of youngsters normally speak a foreign language. Across the country, one in seven pupils aged 4-11 does not have English as the first language, which is the equivalent of 466,620 children. But, following years of unprecedented levels of migration, ten schools have now reached a point where every youngster falls into this category.

Their locations range from London to Lancashire. One, St Hilda's in Oldham, is a Church of England school. Some schools are in areas with long-established Muslim populations. In others, the high number of non-English speakers is the consequence of large-scale immigration from Eastern Europe.

Labour MP Frank Field and Tory MP Nicholas Soames, co-chairmen of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, said: 'These figures make a nonsense of the Government's aim of integration and show the very real strain that uncontrolled large scale immigration is already placing upon our society. 'In hundreds of primary schools, English is the second language for over 70 per cent or more of the pupils. 'How can these children be expected to integrate into our society if they are being taught in schools where is English is the mother tongue of no pupils or a minority of pupils?' Mr Field asked the Children's Department to produce a list of all those schools where seven in ten or more pupils did not have English as their first language.

The 591 primary schools out of 17,205 which fall into this category represent around three per cent, or around one in 30. There are a number of local authorities where 20 per cent or more of their schools have at least 70 per cent of youngsters who do not have English as their first language. These include the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets (62 per cent), Newham (46.9), Brent (28.8) and Ealing (28), plus Blackburn (26.7), Leicester (25.9), Bradford (25), Luton (20.3) and Birmingham (20).

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: 'Two successful elements of any immigration policy should be to limit the numbers coming in so that the pressure on all public services is reduced, and to insist on English being spoken to a competent level by people coming here to get married. 'It is relatively easy to cope with a small number of non-English speakers, but incredibly difficult if there are large numbers. Scale matters.'

David Green, director of the Civitas think-tank, has warned that when a large number of immigrant children go into schools, it is very hard for the staff to accommodate them and specialist teachers have to be brought in. Last night, Dr Green said that when the Government was advocating the economic benefits of mass migration, it failed to take into account the impact on schools and other public services. He warned that one of the consequences of having schools where no pupils had English as a first language was that they and their families might lead a sectarian lifestyle.

A spokesman for the Children's Department said: 'It is important to remember that some of the schools with 100 per cent of their pupils with English as an additional language are actually doing very well, especially considering the extra challenges they face. 'Even if a pupil speaks another language they may still be highly competent in English, and many are. In cases recent arrivals from countries such as Poland have helped keep small rural schools open that may have otherwise closed because of falling pupil numbers. 'The language of instruction in English schools is English and this is vital in boosting community cohesion. 'The task is to get every child up to speed in English so that they can access the whole curriculum. 'We have listened to the concerns of head teachers and are increasing funding in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant to 206million pounds by 2010, to bring students weak in English up to speed.'


Vicious British social workers yet again

'They say we're too old to care for our grandchildren': Social workers hand brother and sister to gay men for adoption -- DESPITE the little girl being fearful of men. The welfare of the children was obviously NOT the priority of these Leftist animals

Two young children are to be adopted by a gay couple, despite the protests of their grandparents. The devastated grandparents were told they would never see the youngsters again unless they dropped their opposition. The couple, who cannot be named, wanted to give the five-year-old boy and his four-year-old sister a loving home themselves. But they were ruled to be too old - at 46 and 59. For two years they fought for their rights to care for the children, whose 26-year- old mother is a recovering heroin addict. They agreed to an adoption only after they faced being financially crippled by legal bills. The final blow came when they were told the children were going to a gay household, even though several heterosexual couples wanted them.

When the grandfather protested, he was told: 'You can either accept it, and there's a chance you'll see the children twice a year, or you can take that stance and never see them again.' The man said last night: 'It breaks my heart to think that our grandchildren are being forced to grow up in an environment without a mother figure. We are not prejudiced, but I defy anyone to explain to us how this can be in their best interests.'

Social workers themselves have admitted that the little girl is 'more wary' of men than women. The case, in Edinburgh, raises worrying issues about state interference in family life. It will also fuel concern over the practice of gay adoption, which has been promoted by Left-wing ministers and council bosses.

Some local authorities forbid adoption by smokers and obese people but actively support gay fostering and adoption - even though research shows overwhelmingly that children are best brought up by a mother and father.

The grandparents first stepped in because the children's mother was unable to look after them. But council social workers became worried that the grandparents' ages and health problems meant they would also be unable to care for the children properly. The 59-year-old grandfather, a farm worker, has angina while his wife is receiving medication for diabetes. The children were taken into foster care during the two years of court hearings.

When the grandparents eventually conceded defeat, they were assured by social workers that they would still have regular contact with them. The fostering arrangement worked well, but the council decided that the children should be adopted, to give them a permanent home. The grandparents agreed - as long as they could be assured that the adoptive parents would be a loving mother and father. The couple were then told an adoption had been arranged - but the grandfather 'hit the roof' when he discovered that the adoptive parents were two gay men.

Social workers dealing with the case admitted that heterosexual couples who were approved as adoptive parents had also been keen to adopt the children. The decision was taken even though a confidential social work report - now part of the court records held by the grandparents - contained that the little girl is generally not as happy around men. The report says she 'has tended to be more wary of males in general.'

Her grandparents insist they are not homophobic. But they reject the view of social workers that the decision to allow the gay couple to adopt the children was made 'in accordance with who can best meet their needs.' When they made their opposition clear, however, the couple were told that social workers would 'certainly look' at allowing them access to the children 'when you are able to come back with an open mind on the issues'.

The grandfather was told by a social worker: 'If you couldn't support the children [in the gay adoption], if you were having contact and couldn't support the children, and were showing negative feelings, it wouldn't be in their best interests for contact to take place.' He said last night: 'The ideal for any child is to have a loving father and a loving mother in their lives. 'But in our society the mother is generally the cornerstone of the family and the most important person for a young child.' His wife added: 'It's so important for children to fit in, and I feel our grandchildren will be marked out from the start when they draw pictures of their two dads.'

The last time the couple saw their grandchildren was shortly after the agreement for them to be adopted but before the decision to place them with a gay couple. They took dozens of photographs and tried, for the sake of the youngsters, not to break down. 'Granny, I'm not going to see you for a very long time,' said the five-year-old boy. 'Maybe when I'm in Primary Seven I'll be able to see you.' 'We'll try our very hardest to see you soon,' said his grandmother, choking back tears.

The boy told his grandfather: 'Grandad, if you want to see me you will have to pick me up because I will be a very long way away.' Then he added innocently: 'We are getting a new mummy and daddy.'

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic church condemned the council's decision last night, warning that the children's welfare could be jeopardised. He added: 'This is a devastating decision which will have a serious impact on the welfare of the children involved. 'There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that same-sex relationships are inherently unstable and reduce the life expectancy of those involved. 'The social work department have deliberately ignored evidence which undermines their decision and opted for politically-correct posturing rather than providing stability and protection for the children.'

The City of Edinburgh Council said last night that it could not comment on individual cases. Adoption by gay couples in Scotland was approved by MSPs in 2006 - despite an official consultation process which showed that nearly 90 per cent of people opposed it.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now Greenies don't like tidal power, either

It might upset the fish, you know. So: Coal, nuclear and hydroelectic are positively EVIL; windmills are no good; tidal power is no good. There's just no such thing as a happy Greenie

Whichever, if any, tidal scheme is built on the Severn, it is sure to anger some environmentalists. Being a renewable source of electricity, tidal generators might be assumed to be popular with the green lobby. Yet there are serious reservations over the environmental costs of a barrage or lagoon in the estuary - and they have split the environmentalist movement.

On the one hand there is the appeal of doing something positive about climate change by turning to a renewable, rather than burnable, source of energy. Environmental activists have been urging governments, power companies and the public to embrace renewable energy because it is cleaner than fossil fuels and nuclear power. On the other hand, thousands of hectares of shoreline will be destroyed as a feeding ground for birds - an internationally important feeding ground, no less. There are also deep concerns about the impact on the fish and invertebrates in the Severn. Barrages and, to a lesser extent, lagoons form a physical barrier to species such as salmon and eels as they migrate. The dilemma is balancing the potential damage to habitat against the gains made in combating climate change.

If measures such as the Cardiff-Weston barrage are not taken, how much of the river will be claimed anyway by sea-level rises from melting ice caps and how many creatures will be forced to find somewhere else to live because temperatures have become unbearable?

Some of the projects that missed the shortlist are regarded as having less of an impact on the environment but they are the most unproven schemes and, however attractive their merits, their effectiveness is questionable. When coming to their decision on tidal schemes for the Severn - and perhaps one day the Mersey, the Wyre and the Thames - ministers will have plenty of factors to weigh up. There will be the jobs created - the bigger the scheme the bigger the job creation prospects - and there will be the economic damage caused by limiting navigation of the Severn and access to upstream ports. There will be the attraction of plumping for a huge barrage that will be a monument to their tenure in office, to be set against the affordability of constructing such an edifice.

But most of all they will have to judge whether the wider environment will best be served by sacrifice or preservation.


British watchdog bans Christian advert claiming that a vaccine leads to infertility

Again we have censorship arising from just one complainer
"A Christian advert which suggested the cervical cancer vaccine would make teenagers sterile has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Christian Voice believes the HPV vaccine will increase teen sex and cause a surge in sexually-transmitted infections that cause infertility. It placed an advert in New Statesman magazine which claimed: `Now we have the disaster of teenage infertility. Every Government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it, but as all the targets revolve around pregnancy, no-one in power knows how many young people they are making sterile and nobody cares.'

The advertising watchdog began an investigation after one complaint. It found the advert breached codes on truthfulness, substantiation and principles.


Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease and it does cause infertility. So anything that makes women feel that it safer to have indiscriminate sex DOES expose them to the risk of infertility. The Christian ad is perfectly factual.

Diet pill side-effects

For years I've been searching for the next quick fix - the miracle diet, the revolutionary gym class or the ultimate fat-busting pill. In fact, I'll do anything to lose weight. Anything, that is, except eat less and exercise more. That's why I was so excited when I first heard about the fat-busting pill Alli, which has just been licensed to be sold over-the-counter in Britain.

A year ago the Daily Mail told how this medically proven obesity drug was already on sale in the US. I couldn't wait to try it. It seemed like the answer to my prayers - finally a little pill to take with every meal that would help me lose weight without any effort. But there was one problem - it was then available only in America. So when a friend suggested a long weekend in New York, the tickets were booked before you could say 'obesity epidemic'.

Arriving in Manhattan, Alli tablets weren't hard to find. The first pharmacy I went into had them. I chose the 90-capsule pack - enough for a month - which, with the exchange rate being so good at the time, cost around 25 pounds. The pack was full of little booklets offering advice on diet, exercise, how to take the pills and their side-effects. They explained that Alli is produced from the drug orlistat, which prevents your body absorbing some of the fat in the food you eat. The undigested fat is then flushed out of your body in your bowel movements. It's a half-strength version of the weight-loss drug Xenical, which is available both in the US and Britain and works in the same way but is only available with a doctor's prescription.

Alli, medical tests had proved, helped increase weight loss by about 50 per cent. So if I went on a diet and lost 2lb in a week, it could be increased to 3lb with the drug. Fantastic! Or so I thought until I read about the side-effects both in the leaflets and in all the testimonies online. Flatulence, diarrhoea and stomach pain were quite common. But I was desperate. I've been 2st overweight for as long as I can remember. I've done every diet known to man, from the Cabbage Soup Diet (great for a week but impossible to sustain any longer) to the Atkins (incredibly difficult for a strict vegetarian like myself). And I'm an emotional eater - if I'm feeling a bit low, I use crisps and biscuits to cheer myself up. So nothing short of risk of death was going to stop me taking Alli tablets.

I'm (unsurprisingly) no stranger to diet pills. I've tried lots of natural ones like Hoodia, a plant which claims to suppress your appetite, and LIPObind which, like Alli, reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs, but with no success. Around four years ago I was even so desperate that I bought appetite suppressant, Reductil, a prescription-only drug, online. I filled in a form and a doctor who didn't know my medical history happily prescribed it for me.

I lost 4lb in the first week - and certainly didn't feel as hungry as normal but the side-effects put me off. At first I felt a raging thirst and had a dry mouth. After a few days, I felt tense, ratty and was unable to sleep. I lost a stone but, even so, I didn't want to repeat the experience.

But Alli seemed different. Most of the side-effects seemed tolerable and there was a chance I might not even suffer them. Most importantly, it had been passed by America's Food And Drug Administration as safe to sell over the counter. Plus I'd read countless testimonies on line of women allegedly `achieving the impossible' with this drug. I dared to hope that I too may be one of them and swallowed my first little blue pill - one to be taken with each meal that contained fat.

The 90-capsule tub lasted about five weeks and the pills seemed to work well. Side-effects were minimal - a few stomach cramps, a little flatulence but nothing I couldn't cope with - and I lost 6lb, more than I'd normally expect to lose without going on a really hard-core diet. It seemed I'd finally found the solution to my weight problems. But Alli still wasn't available in Britain and although by now it could be bought off the internet, I couldn't stretch to 100 pounds for 60 tablets. It wasn't until last summer that I managed to get back to America to buy some more. Again I had only mild side-effects to begin with but, as the first month ended, I realised the weight wasn't coming off.

Even though I was eating about the same as last time - typically non-sugary cereal with low-fat milk for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and Quorn and vegetables for supper, with fruit snacks - I lost only a pound or two in four weeks. I would have expected to lose that amount anyway, given the amount I was eating. Yes, I'd have bad days when I'd give in and scoff a muffin, but to be honest, I expected better results.

Towards the end of October the drug's side-effects really began to kick in. Every morning I suffered from diarrhoea and agonising stomach cramps. The advice from Alli is that such problems can be controlled if you reduce the amount of fat you eat to around 15g per meal. I genuinely think I did this most of the time, but I still suffered. It got to the stage that I was so afraid of the side-effects, if I was going to eat something that I knew had a bit too much fat in, I wouldn't take the tablet. But still I was suffering from the side-effects.

By December the diarrhoea had cleared up but by then, I'm mortified to say, flatulence had become a real problem. If it wasn't for the fact I work from home and have no colleagues to worry about, I think I would have thrown the Alli in the bin. Plus there was the chronic discomfort. Each night, my stomach was incredibly bloated, like it was pumped full of gas. And each week it got worse. But last week I got on the scales and finally had to face facts. Since November, I've lost only 4lb. In the meantime I've suffered horrible side-effects and my social life has been totally disrupted. I've been in denial, but the truth is, for me, with Alli the problems far outweigh the benefits. So I've stopped taking them and am waiting for my body to get back to normal. Three days on I'm still getting cramps and wind.

Upset at why Alli didn't work for me I did a bit more research. What I discovered made me wish I'd never taken it in the first place. Judy More, a registered dietician, struggled to mask her exasperation when she told me: `If you're prepared to stick rigidly to a low-fat diet, then Alli (or orlistat as it is also known) might help you. `But if you're not, you have to be prepared for some very disagreeable side-effects. `Now it is going to be available over the counter, I have to assume the company has done the necessary research into the potential long-term health implications. 'I can see how it might help some people, but if someone really wants to lose weight, you need to motivate them to change their habits, giving them a pill isn't going to be the magic bullet that I have no doubt this will be marketed as.'

Dr Sidney Wolfe was even more direct. He says: `The drug works by inhibiting absorption of fats, and as a result the absorption of critical fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E. Unless these are replaced, a patient could become vitamin deficient. `And, aside from the really unpleasant side-effects, which mean the company itself advises you to wear dark clothing and carry a change of clothes, we have many concerns about the long-term health implications.

`Not least is the fact that Roche's own data showed a correlation between the drug and the formation of pre-cancerous lesions in the colon. Furthermore, randomised control trials on orlistat also suggested there was a link with breast cancer, something that has still not been resolved.

More here

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another episode from Britian's vicious social workers

Targeting decent people is all they seem to want to do. Feral parents can (and do) kill their kids without the social workers lifting a finger. I guess that in their elitist world the kids of dysfunctional families don't matter

Social services banned a mother from being alone with her baby after she took him to hospital with a tiny mark on his ear. Lyndsey Craig worried that six-month-old Daniel might have meningitis after she found the blemish. But doctors who examined him referred the case to social services who then banned Mrs Craig and her husband Tim, 30, from being alone with the child while they investigated.

Responsibility for Daniel had to be handed to his grandparents. Mrs Craig, 24, who works as an accounts assistant, took Daniel to Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool last month as he was suffering from vomiting and had a small purple mark on his ear.

She said doctors took blood tests and confirmed he did not have meningitis, but decided to keep him in overnight for scans. During this time, she and her husband were asked questions about domestic violence and a social worker was sent round to check their home in Liverpool. When the scans and X-rays came back clear the Craigs expected to be given an apology from social services. But instead they were told they were not allowed to be left alone with Daniel. Mrs Craig said: 'They said that if I took him home, they would be able to arrest me and put both of my children into foster care. That's when I broke down.'

Daniel was discharged from the hospital when his grandparents Florence and Jim Craig signed a form promising to 'support, supervise and monitor' his care until a child protection conference on January 8. The couple, from the Lake District, who are both retired and in their 60s, had to move in with the family.

Social services visited the Craigs, who also have a three year old son Sam, three times during the ban. Officers finally visited them on New Year's Eve to say the ban was lifted, more than three weeks after their ordeal began. But they weren't officially cleared until the child protection conference on January 8 in which ten people voted unanimously against putting Daniel into care. Mrs Craig requested a photograph of the mark on her son's ear and showed it to those attending the conference. She said they were shocked when they discovered the tiny blemish had been the cause of the problem. It has since disappeared and remains unexplained.

Mrs Craig said: 'Right now, there are probably thousands of children who are getting beaten up and abused and they have wasted all this time and money on us.' A Liverpool council spokesman said: 'We recognise these situations are stressful. However, we do have a legal duty to investigate.' An Alder Hey spokesman said the referral was standard practice for any child admitted to hospital with 'unexplained injuries'.


Parents' grief as daughter dies after NHS hospital 'forced them to change her treatment'

The father is a very forgiving man. He should sue the pants off the arrogant b*stards. It's the only thing that will get their attention. Arrogance is a hallmark of the NHS

A little girl with a very rare medical condition died after a hospital threatened her parents with a police protection order if they did not comply with a new treatment plan, it has been claimed. Francesca Blair-Robinson, 12, died five months after her father says he and her mother were forced to withdraw their opposition to new treatment.

Father Malcolm, who had taken the lead in his daughter's care, believes the change in treatment led to her death and that Francesca would be alive today if his hand wasn't forced with the threat of police intervention. Last night the devoted father-of-six spoke out about the tragic circumstances of his daughter's death, calling for a change in the way vulnerable children are treated.

Speaking of the hospital's decision to pursue a 'much more aggressive' therapy plan he said: 'I had warned in writing that such a medical approach may prove fatal, based upon the fact that I had been Francesca's full-time carer for almost the whole of her life and had studied her medical condition and her response to treatment 24/7 for 11 years. 'I have conducted significant research into her case since her death and I am entirely satisfied that the treatment killed her and that neither I nor her mother nor Francesca herself would have agreed to this approach but for the intervention of child protection procedures.'

When Francesca was born with a rare congenital syndrome causing a catalogue of symptoms, including being very small and frail, it was feared she would not make it to the age of one. Sent home to die she confounded expectations by surviving under the dedicated care and attention of her family. Her novelist father, 69, became her full-time carer, devising a treatment plan by 'trial and error' but tailored to her needs that included antibiotics, a nebuliser, physiotherapy and a special diet.

Mr Blair-Robinson, who split from Francesca's American businesswoman mother in 2004, said: 'Working closely with doctors we not only saved her life but developed therapies through cautious use of drugs which gave Francesca a quality of life, a richness of experience and an inspirational nature that was little short of a modern day miracle.' Although weak, the little girl was able to go to school for short periods, and have a home tutor for the rest of the time. She developed a network of friends on the internet and loved the countryside. But after moving from Surrey to West Sussex in 2006 the doctors overseeing Francesca's care changed.

When she collapsed in May 2007 medical staff at St Richard's Hospital, in Chichester, wanted to change the way she was treated. She made a swift recovery but doctors still advocated 'aggressive use of IV antibiotics' and oxygen therapy, claims Mr Blair-Robinson. He said both he and his ex-wife objected, and within a week were summoned to a meeting where they were confronted without warning by a social worker, police officer and medical staff. 'Her mother and I were threatened that unless we withdrew our opposition to the hospital's medical plans, Francesca, a frail and vulnerable child with a very sharp intellect, would be made the subject of an immediate police protection order.'

Terrified the couple complied and the little girl was referred to Southampton General Hospital which set out the more 'aggressive' programme. Within five months she had died of respiratory failure, a death that Mr Blair-Robinson would not have happened if he had been allowed to continue taking the lead in her care. He believes there should have been a narrative record of her care in her medical notes and a better system of information sharing and is calling for an overhaul of the way the NHS handles complex cases of children with special health needs. 'She knew she was dying, insisted on doing her Christmas shopping early as she feared she would not reach the day herself and confided that she felt the doctors were killing her.'

He said he did not indeed to pursue legal action as he did not think it 'helpful'. 'Doctors do their best but they make mistakes, they are human,' he said. 'They are forgiven but changes need to be made.' He is sending a copy of his proposed reforms to child protection process to Downing Street.

Of Francesca, who he believes could have survived into adulthood, he said: 'She was a completely magic person, everybody who came upon her was enchanted by her, she may have had a wonky body but she had a golden spirit. 'So that the values of her life may be more widely shared, it seems fitting to propose reforms to our approach to helping the vulnerable.' Francesca had congenital varicella syndrome, a condition that is related to the mother being infected with chickenpox early in pregnancy.


BBC personality made 40 false rape allegations against her ex-boyfriend

Another instance of something that feminists claim never happens

A BBC personality has shattered her ex-boyfriend's life by falsely accusing him of rape. The woman, who has broadcast to television audiences of millions, accused him of raping her 40 times throughout their two-and-a-half-year relationship. He was arrested, held in a police cell and handcuffed as police searched his flat for evidence of his crime. But she retracted her allegation weeks later, and the officer investigating the claims described them as 'inconsistent' and 'not credible'.

Despite the lack of evidence, the incident remains on the Police National Computer thanks to a legal loophole, which campaigners say is blighting the lives of falsely accused men. Even if the 'victim' withdraws their allegation, it will show up under enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks that are undertaken regularly on people who apply for jobs with employers such as the NHS or schools. It will also prevent them from travelling to the United States.

The boyfriend cannot be identified to protect his accuser's anonymity, but wants to make his case public. He said: 'The lies she told have ruined my life. Yet, while I have lost out on jobs and been left paranoid and scared of women, she has got away without punishment. We're not even allowed to reveal her identity. Rape is a horrific crime, and there is no way I am capable of committing it. 'I don't care how successful she is, she should be sent to prison. Of course, the BBC doesn't know what she has done. But if they were to find out I would like to think they'd sack her.'

Fewer than six per cent of reported rapes result in a conviction, but according to Tim Murray of the False Rape Society, this case is typical. 'Thousands of innocent men are tainted for ever by an unfair system,' he said. 'The accused should have the right to remain anonymous until a conviction. If they are cleared, the incident should be erased from their records.'

Robert - not his real name - is an articulate man in his 50s who met the BBC star in London in 2003. A keen amateur photographer, he was there to take promotional shots. The woman, who we will call Charlotte, was working for a commercial television station and asked Robert if he would take some publicity pictures to help further her career. Within weeks they had embarked on a physical relationship. 'In addition to being very beautiful she was intelligent and funny. She was, still is, ambitious. Her career and becoming famous meant more to her than anything,' he said.

The pair filmed many of their encounters at his Central London flat, something he said was Charlotte's idea. 'It turned her on and I enjoyed it too,' he said. 'We agreed from the start that we'd have an open relationship. But we didn't just have sex. We cooked together, went to restaurants. I supported her whenever she was down.' Robert, who separated amicably from his wife, with whom he has two teenage children, ten years ago, was introduced to her friends, but not her family. 'They have strict views on sex before marriage and Charlotte wanted them to believe she was a virgin.'

Still in her 20s, there was a considerable age gap between the two. 'It was flattering at first,' he admits. 'But as the months went by I became more self-conscious about it. Plus, I started to mistrust Charlotte. She lied to me about her whereabouts. And I knew she wanted to marry another boyfriend.' By March 2006 he decided to end the relationship. He arranged to visit Charlotte's London home to pick up the keys to his flat from her.

Yet as he was waiting outside in his car, he was arrested. He was taken first to Hendon Police Station in North London, then to Marylebone police station, where he was accused of raping her, spiking her drinks, blackmailing and threatening to kill her. 'I was confused and powerless. I imagined myself in prison for life. I respect women and would not dream of touching one against her will.' While in custody, Robert, a former employee of an international trading company, suggested the police visit his flat to pick up the DVDs he and Charlotte had made. 'I knew they should prove my innocence,' he said. He also thinks the footage was the reason for his arrest in the first place. 'Once I ended the relationship she became paranoid I would blackmail her with the DVDs,' he said. 'But she was judging me by her standards.'

After seven hours, he was released on bail. 'I dreaded telling my children and ex-wife what had happened,' he recalled. 'Charlotte had befriended them, even picking my children up from school. Luckily they supported me from the start.'

In police records, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and seen by The Mail on Sunday, Charlotte claimed that Robert had been blackmailing her by threatening to sell the DVDs to the Press. She said he spiked her drink before they had sex and threatened to kill her if she left him. 'It was all nonsense, fabricated to substantiate her claim,' he said. 'She once told me she had been raped twice before. Now I think she uses both the allegation, and sex in general, as some kind of tool to get what she wants.'

As the days passed, the police began to find Charlotte's evidence increasingly 'tenuous'. The DVDs showed that Charlotte 'would appear to be fully participating in sexual acts'. On May 18, perhaps knowing her account contained, as police put it, a 'number of inconsistencies', she withdrew the allegation. The police officer recorded the incident as 'no crime'.

Robert then received a letter saying he was released from bail and that no further action would be taken. 'But there was no apology from Charlotte or the police,' he says. His anger was exacerbated when police told him in a letter that 'the matter remains recorded as rape'. It was eventually downgraded to 'an allegation of rape' after he protested. Although the allegation had been withdrawn, one police officer had written in his records that: 'There is insufficient additional verifiable information to determine that no notifiable offence has been committed.'

Surprisingly, the law permits officers to register their disagreement with the outcome of a case in police records, with potentially devastating repercussions. While Charlotte's anonymity is guaranteed by the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 1976, Robert's ordeal will remain on his file indefinitely. He believes he has been rejected from a job as a Home Office interpreter because he failed to clear criminal checks. An application for a US visa requires him to state whether he has ever been arrested for a crime, and he says he did not apply for a job as a photographer in London schools because his records would stop him being offered it.

A police spokesman would not discuss individual cases but said: 'The current Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines state that police forces retain allegations of serious crime for ten years. We are liaising with ACPO and the Information Commissioner about a review of this policy.'


New British diplomas not suitable for bright pupils, say teachers

More crap education for kids stuck in British government schools

Teachers do not rate the Government's new diploma as suitable for bright teenagers or those wanting to go to university, according to research published today. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, appears to be failing to win round his own workforce in promoting the qualification for 14 to 19-year-olds. Mr Balls has said that the diploma, which is supposed to bridge the academic and vocational divide, could become the qualification of choice, eventually replacing A levels. Teachers, however, do not appear to share his enthusiasm. A survey of 1,300 teachers found that under a quarter thought the diploma was suitable for academically able pupils. Just a fifth believed that students destined for university should bother taking a diploma; A levels were still seen by most teachers as appropriate for clever pupils and for those wanting to progress to university.

The results of the survey are a blow for the Government, which has pushed hard to convince parents, universities and employers of the diploma's worth. The qualification was designed to break down what ministers have called the pernicious divide between theoretical and practical education.

Some universities have agreed to accept the engineering diploma, but Oxford and Cambridge also want students to take A-level physics as a condition of entry to its engineering degree course. Other diploma subjects include construction, hair and beauty, information technology, and travel and tourism. Five diplomas are currently on offer, with plans for an eventual 17. Three announced most recently appear more academic than their predecessors, covering science, languages and humanities, but these will not be available until 2011. Only 12,000 teenagers began taking diplomas last September, a quarter of the Government's original estimate.

The poll, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research and released by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, found that three quarters of teachers thought the diploma was for schools in poorer areas. Only three in ten believed it was suitable for independent schools. More than four fifths saw the qualification as being for those who wanted to pursue a vocational route.

James Turner, director of policy at the Sutton Trust, said: "At a time when diplomas are being heavily promoted to schools and students, it is worrying that the perception among teachers - who should be best informed - is that these are not for bright young people with university ambitions. This reflects a wider confusion about the role and currency of the different qualifications available in schools and colleges. "There is a real danger of a divide emerging between those pupils in independent and top state schools who are set on an academic path, leading to places in selective universities, and students from non-privileged backgrounds who have those opportunities closed to them."

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said the survey showed that young people needed better guidance. Diana Warwick, its chief executive, said: "This is a new qualification, so inevitably there will be a learning curve for everyone involved. But we are concerned that there is a perception among the teachers surveyed that the diplomas are not appropriate qualifications for students aiming to go on to university. "Diplomas provide a new route to higher education and enable wider accessibility for students to develop the skills that best meet their aspirations."

Professor Michael Arthur, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds and a member of the Government's advisory group on diplomas, said: "The results of this survey show that we have to work harder on providing high quality information and training to those that are giving our 14 to 16-year-olds advice and guidance about their future studies."


IVF advance promises leap in success rates

Success rates for IVF could be improved dramatically by a pioneering new IVF test that promises to help thousands of infertile couples to start a family. The new procedure, developed by British scientists, selects the most viable eggs for use in fertility treatment, by screening out those with genetic defects that would cause them to fail. A British woman was today announced as the first in the world to have benefited from the test.

The technique, developed by researchers at Care Fertility in Nottingham, has enabled the unnamed 41-year-old woman to conceive after 13 failed cycles of IVF treatment. She is due to give birth in two months time. The screening procedure could transform the prospects of motherhood for older infertile women and those with a history of miscarriage or IVF failure. It should also improve success rates among younger patients with a good chance of conceiving by IVF. While previous egg and embryo quality tests have been licensed only for women with a poor prognosis, the new one has been approved for any patient.

Simon Fishel, managing director of Care Fertility, who led the development team, estimates that as many as half of all couples having fertility treatment could benefit from the technique, known as Array Comparative Genomic Hybridisation (Array CGH). "IVF success rates are around 30 per cent, and reach 40 per cent only in the best clinics, which means at least 60 per cent of cycles still fail," he said. "One of the holy grails is to get to one embryo, one baby, but the great stumbling block is that only 25 to 30 per cent of eggs are actually viable. By being able to select the normal ones, we should have an impact on success rates. How great that might be we don't yet know."

Array CGH would be especially useful when only a single embryo is transferred to the womb, to prevent the multiple pregnancies that are by far the greatest hazard of IVF, Dr Fishel said. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is seeking to reduce IVF twin and triplet births from one in four to one in ten, which will require many more patients than at present to have a single embryo transfer. "Converting IVF to single embryos is going to hit some patients very hard in terms of success rates, but if we can select those eggs and embryos with the highest chance of being chromosomally normal, I am hopeful we can mitigate that," Dr Fishel said. "I think this technology will lead towards this goal."

More here

UK: Data bill "will wipe out privacy at a stroke" : "Sweeping new laws to allow ministers to release the private details of millions of people to a string of public bodies or private firms have been condemned as being `open sesame to a vast increase in government power.' Opposition MPs joined human rights campaigners in attacking the new powers, warning that they could lead to the widespread release of medical records and other sensitive data."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The "charities" are guilty, not the BBC (for a change)

The Corporation is right not to run the Gaza appeal. Oxfam and others are clearly anti-Israel

Mark Thompson, the Director-General of the BBC, is quite right to refuse to broadcast the appeal of the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) for humanitarian relief for Gaza, but not for the reason he thinks. He is under the impression that it will damage the BBC's reputation for impartiality in reporting the Israel-Palestine question, but the fact is that the BBC does not have any such reputation, having for years been institutionally pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. The reason that his decision is brave and right, however, is that many of the 13 charities that make up the DEC are even more mired in anti-Israeli assumptions than the BBC itself.

Mr Thompson rightly appreciates that the issue of humanitarian relief in this conflict is quite unlike humanitarian relief for victims of a tsunami or a famine.

Who adjudicates on which victims to support via such charitable aid - and according to whose political morality? Why did the BBC not launch an appeal for the victims of collateral damage during Nato's bombing of Serbia in 1999 during the Kosovo campaign? And had it done so, would it have given money to ethnic Serbs as well as to Kosovars and Bosnian Muslims, all of whom were "cleansed" during the Balkan wars of that decade? What about the victims of insurgencies and counter- insurgencies in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Chechnya or Georgia? Or Israeli victims of the next Hamas suicide attack? Indeed, what about the Palestinian victims of Hamas's hideous human rights abuses, still so shamefully under-reported by the British media as a whole?

And who are these supposedly impartial charities who are attacking Mr Thompson's (albeit belated) attempt to uphold the Corporation's traditional standards? While groups such as the British Red Cross and Christian Aid are generally impartial in other areas of the world, that cannot be said to apply to their role in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, where they regularly view the conflict through a deeply partisan lens.

In the months prior to the decision by Hamas to end the six-month ceasefire and resume rocket attacks, these charities issued a flood of one- sided denunciations aimed at Israel. Their campaign repeated tendentious and often highly inaccurate terms such as "collective punishment" and "violation of international law". On March 6, 2008, CARE International, Cafod, Christian Aid and Oxfam (among others) published a widely quoted report under the headline "The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion". The authors did not bother to hide their political bias against Israel, repeating standard Palestinian political rhetoric and including claims that Israeli policy "constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children" and is "illegal under international humanitarian law".

The report was wrong on many counts, including allegations over the availability of food and basic necessities, which were later contradicted by both the World Bank and World Health Organisation, neither of which are exactly Israeli stooges. The fact that Hamas chose to pursue war with Israel rather than the welfare of its people, was not covered in these reports. There was no sense that any of these claims might be disputed by the other side or by genuinely neutral observers.

During the three-week war, Oxfam and other charities were extremely active in the ideological campaign that highlighted Palestinians as the sole victims and Israelis as the sole aggressors. Numerous Oxfam press statements included language such as: "The international community must not stand aside and allow Israeli leaders to commit massive and disproportionate violence against Gazan civilians in violation of international law."

Violence against Israelis, including deaths, are virtually ignored by Oxfam officials, who have referred to "collective punishment illegal under international humanitarian law yet tolerated by the international community". For those of us who reject such gross ideological bias, which absolves the Hamas leadership for a confrontation which they openly sought, such statements by charities are unacceptable and should not be rewarded by the BBC.

The final issue is the fraught one of the practicability of actually distributing the aid on the ground. After Hamas seized total control of Gaza in June 2007 there have been many well-documented reports of Hamas officials diverting assistance for themselves. On February 7 last year, for example, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that "at least ten trucks with humanitarian aid sent to the Gaza Strip by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society were confiscated by Hamas police shortly after the lorries entered the territory". Journalists also reported that the aid was "unloaded in Hamas ministry warehouses" and that a similar seizure took place in January 2008.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, used to say that Hamas was like a bird that needed two wings to fly - the armed branch, but also the charitable-welfare side of the organisation. Do the 13 charities and their political allies that are so vocally attacking the "cowardly" BBC really have the guts and wherewithal to do a proper audit on how those monies might be spent in today's Gaza Strip? I, for one, do not believe it.


The BBC does it again

Note that this was not broadcast live. It was a version pre-approved by the BBC. But of course "There's no such thing as right and wrong" to Leftists

The foul mouth of shamed Jonathan Ross put his BBC career on a new knife-edge yesterday-just minutes after he returned to Radio 2 from his three-month suspension. The mega-bucks star's crude joke about sex with an 86-year-old woman infuriated listeners. And last night as it emerged that the woman is a REAL PERSON with ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE there were mounting calls for Ross to be SACKED from his 6 million pounds-a-year job.

The shocking blunder came while ad-libbing on air with producer Andy Davies about an elderly woman neighbour then urging him to "give her one last night". They were a mere eight minutes and 35 seconds into yesterday's big comeback show following Ross's Beeb ban over the Sachsgate scandal, when he and comedian Russell Brand left filthy phone messages for 78-year-old actor Andrew Sachs. It came just after 10 o'clock in the morning when families and children were listening.

Ross, 48, and freelance 43-year-old Davies had been discussing how they spent their time during the suspension. Davies said he did some bricklaying in the garden of his villa in Spain but kept getting grabbed by a frisky 80-year-old woman. Ross finished up by declaring: "Eighty, oh God! I think you should, just for charity. "Give her one last night, will you? One last night before the grave. Would it kill you?"

The banter ended abruptly there without any explanation. The Ting Tings' record That's Not My Name was played and the pair did not return to the story afterwards. It's not known if Ross was ordered to stop the sequence. But reaction was swift. Tory MP David Davies was listening to the show with his young children and demanded the BBC immediately sack Ross. He raged: "On Radio 2 you don't expected X-rated references to sex, and especially sex with an 80-year-old, during the day. "I was listening with my kids to this. There's a place for humour but it has to be appropriate to the time of the day. And that clearly wasn't. "He should have gone ages ago. There's no way this man should be on the air. He needs to be replaced now! "It's obscene, especially given the amount of money Ross is being paid. It could also be highly offensive to this woman if she's a real person."

Last night at producer Davies's home near Granada in Southern Spain his wife Abigail-who listened to the broadcast there-confirmed that the pensioner DOES exist. She said: "It's very sad because she has Alzheimer's Disease. She takes a fancy to any man in the street and tries to kiss them." Giggling, she added: "I shouldn't be laughing because, as I say, it's very sad, and she doesn't really realise what she's doing. "I sometimes walk her home because she gets confused about where she is."

Meanwhile former Home Secretary David Blunkett called for Ross's pay to be docked as a result of this latest incident. He said: "It's time for Ross to donate some of his salary to charity."

Regular Radio 2 listener Nigel Langstone, 43, from Leamington, Warwickshire, was furious over Ross's comments and said: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "He gets kicked off air for three months for hounding an old man with disgusting comments about his grand-daughter. "Then virtually the first thing he does after getting back is start telling a gag about sex with an 80-year-old woman. How insensitive can you be? "It just shows he's learned absolutely nothing and is a loose cannon who can't be controlled. "What's worse is that the exchange happened with his own producer-the man who's supposed to control him. "The BBC is totally OUT of control. They've no idea how much offence they're causing. "Ross should be taken off air immediately. He's a timebomb waiting to go off."

Ross's latest gaffe came a day after BBC bosses heavily censored his comeback TV show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

Mediawatch, which campaigns for "socially responsible broadcasting", last night joined the call for the star to go. Director John Beyer said: "Making jokes like this is not acceptable. He should have gone three months ago and I haven't changed my view."

But Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, refused to condemn Ross. He even declined to listen to a transcript of the crass comments and said: "You're not going to expect me to make any comment on this, are you?" BBC Director-General Mark Thompson - on 816,000 a year of licence-payers money - REFUSED to discuss the incident and hung up on us. Later the corporation defended Ross in a statement which said: "Regular listeners will be familiar with Jonathan's irreverence and innuendo. "This light-hearted exchange contained no offensive language, named no individuals and there was clearly no intention to offend anyone."

But Ross himself was clearly embarrassed as he tried to wriggle out of his latest gaffe when he was confronted by the News of the World at his 3 million home in Hampstead, North London, last night. At first his wife Jane answered the door and insisted he had done nothing wrong. But when we asked if Ross was hiding behind his wife he came to the door and said: "I hope no one has been upset by the show. "It was a kind of light-hearted remark about giving her a cuddle. "It wasn't `give her one'-I meant, `Give her one last cuddle.' You know there was no malice intended. There was no harm intended, OK?"

That was at 5.30pm. But two hours later he issued a statement through his public relations expert attempting to wriggle yet further and shift the blame. His second version of what happened said: "It was a spontaneous, light-hearted remark made in response to an anecdote set in Spain, where no one was named or ever likely to hear the broadcast. "As far as I was concerned, the story may even have been apocryphal or exaggerated for comedic purposes, as is common practice on radio and comedy shows across the country. "Absolutely no offence to any individual was intended and, if the media wasn't hell bent on stirring up controversy, I'm sure none would be taken."

In fact, the story was completely ACCURATE, as confirmed by Andy Davies's wife. She also contradicted Ross by pointing out that she-like thousands of other ex-pats who listen in on the internet-heard the whole show perfectly clearly at her Spanish home. Strangely her husband, who commutes from Spain to London, last night claimed in a statement issued through Radio 2 and approved by senior BBC bosses: "It is completely untrue to suggest that I was referring to a real individual on the programme, nor would I have told such a story about anyone suffering from dementia. "The story was poetic licence based on the warm and affectionate behaviour experienced in Spanish village life. I did not identify an individual because there isn't one."

Yet three hours earlier, in a phone interview with the News of the World, his wife Abigail had confirmed she actually KNOWS the woman, she DOES have Alzheimer's and even gave us the pensioner's name. She is well-known to locals but we are keeping her identity secret to protect her privacy.


British schoolgirls banned from lessons by headmaster for being 'too blonde'

What smallmindedness!

A headteacher has come under fire from parents and pupils after banning two 16-year-olds from school for being 'too blonde'. Raegan Booth, 16, and Aby Western, 15, say they were threatened with expulsion by David Alexander unless they dyed their hair brown. The girls claim they are being forced to adhere to the strict dress code of Rednock School in Dursley, Gloucestershire, in order to sit GCSE exams. But Raegan remains adamant that her hair is a natural shade of blonde. She said:'The school rules clearly state that there are to be no "unnatural" hair colours on students. 'Unnatural hair colours are blue, purple, green and bright red. Blonde is considered a natural hair colour and there are many different shades.

'The head claims that he must follow the rules. To me this suggests that certain students are being made to look a way which is against their will. 'I believe this is wrong and no amount of hair dye affects a person's ability in school.' The teenager, who is refusing to dye her hair a darker shade, added: 'As we are in the middle of our GCSE year, we should not be excluded over something so petty. 'This is a crucial time for us and we should be focusing solely on our grades as opposed to our level of appearance.'

Martin Booth, Raegan's father said: 'Raegan is a model pupil and is working very hard towards her exams. 'She is always well turned out, her hair looks a very natural blonde. 'This is their final year, they are under enough pressure with GCSEs, they do not need to be worrying about their hair.'

Mr Alexander, who is due to meet with Raegan, denies the claims. He said that the girls were sent home only to dye their hair, and that they would still have been allowed to sit their GCSE exams. He said: 'We would not stop any student from sitting their GCSEs, it is in our interests that every student sits their GCSEs at the school. 'We are just trying to be consistent and apply the rules across the board. This code of conduct has been in place for a long time. 'However I am going to be meeting with parents to talk about looking again at the code and making it more clear. 'I think the problem is how you interpret the rules and we need to make it clearer for the students and parents. 'I accept this is a stressful time for the GCSE students, but we have to be consistent with our rules and must apply it to all year groups, otherwise it would be unfair.'


Medically-caused illness cured by a dedicated British mother

There is no doubt that antibiotics are overused. Sensitivity to them is supposed to be routinely monitored -- but this is the NHS, of course

A baby with a mysterious condition which causes his stomach to swell has been cured by a probiotic drink, his mother says. Riley Anderson, who is 11 months, has struggled with the bloating syndrome since birth. Doctors first noticed the problem when he was just 12 hours old and Riley was taken to a special baby unit. He was fed by a tube and later transferred to a specialist children's hospital, but no one could work out what was wrong with him.

His mother, Anna Anderson, 35, said: 'They didn't know what it was and sent us home. 'They still don't know what it is. He was bloated and his stomach was nearly as big as his body, it was like a balloon.' The problem continued for months. Miss Anderson, who has three other children, added: 'He was bloating up and being sick and if he did need to go to the toilet he was constantly screaming. 'I changed his milk to see if that would help, but it didn't, he was still bloated.'

As doctors could not help her, Miss Anderson decided to do some research herself. When she explored the antibiotics that Riley had been given by doctors, she discovered that one of them kills natural bacteria in the body. As a last resort, she decided to try and reintroduce this bacteria to her son by feeding him bottles of probiotics. 'I gave him Yakult and he was fine within the first couple of days of him having it,' she said. 'He was ten months old, and at his happiest he had been. There was no bloating.'

A few weeks later, Riley had problems with his ears, and was taken to hospital, where he was given more antibiotics. But after just two doses, his stomach began to swell again. Once he was home, his mother, from Aby, Lincolnshire, began to dose him with Yakult and he returned to normal. 'I think there is a bacterial imbalance in his stomach which means he can't digest food, and the Yakult helps get that back,' she said. 'When I give him Yakult, it settles his stomach and he is fine.'

Dr Henry Mulenga, a member of the Royal College of Paediatricians, with a special interest in gastroenterology, said: 'We are beginning to hear more and more of these type of stories. In my view it is very possible. 'There is no doubt that some conditions can be improved by introducing healthy bacteria. 'Many parents may feel that is the case. The difficulty we have with very small babies is whether it is entirely safe to do so.'

A spokesman for Yakult said: 'We are delighted that our product has helped in this circumstance.'


There are pictures at the link above but I found them too distressing to reproduce